Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Woman shares story of addiction, recovery
Candace Mullins with her three boys, Cortez, 3, Marcus, 9, and Anthony, 1, at her home in Renewal House.
She credits Renewal House, a residential program for women and kids, with helping her beat drugs
By LEA ANN OVERSTREET • Staff Writer • May 7, 2008
Candace Mullins was strung out on crack cocaine and lost custody of her kids until she decided life was not life if it meant living addicted and alone.
The struggling mother had become another faceless drug user, a woman addicted and hiding in her isolated world. She sought comfort in drugs and lost sight of what life could offer. But having gone down that path, she prays that the memories stay with her, no matter how difficult.
"I never want to forget where I came from. From being in crack houses to turning tricks to waking up and just feeling disgusting because I didn't know what I had done. You can't imagine what that's like," Mullins said.
Grief over son's death kept her using drugs
Mullins' life was filled with disappointment and tragedy; it's not an excuse for her choices, but a reason. She said the relationship that was lacking with her mother might have led her to use drugs, along with a relationship with a man who used, but what would follow would keep her addicted.
Mullins had three boys when 5-year-old Carlyle died in 2005 after being taken out of his mother's care by the state and placed with family members.
"When my son passed away, I was grief-stricken, and I kept using. Then I got pregnant with Anthony, and that's when I said enough," Mullins said. Anthony is now 15 months old; brothers Marcus and Cortez are 9 and 3, respectively.
Mullins found refuge at Renewal House, a center in Bordeaux dedicated to treating drug-addicted women. But it's not just the women who are welcome.
"We are the only program in Nashville that allows women to live here with their children while going through the recovery process," said Dani Lieberman, development director.
And that impresses Ann Brooks with the Department of Children's Services. Brooks said she frequently sees women in need of help in her profession and a place like Renewal House "is very important to Davidson County."
Lieberman said the center wants to focus on early intervention, so mothers with children older than 10 must make other living arrangements for the children.
The Renewal House campus has two, three-story buildings with 15 one-bedroom apartments, which can house up to 15 women and their children. The program's staff includes licensed clinical social workers and an addictions counselor.
Rules are strict; expectations are high
Once the women have committed to staying at Renewal House they are subject to strict guidelines.
"This is a very structured program, and we expect a lot from the women," Lieberman said. "We have a lot of rules, but they understand that when they enter the program."
The women are responsible for the upkeep of their apartments, which are inspected regularly, and are subject to random drug testing.
"If they have drugs in their system, then that's automatic dismissal" from the program, Lieberman said.
Televisions are not allowed in the rooms, only in the community area of the apartment complex, and no phones, to keep the women completely focused on their recovery and their children.
As a woman moves through the program, the strict rules lessen and privileges increase. After graduating, they can move into Renewal House's affordable housing units, which are separate from the apartments.
Mullins, who spent 14 months in the program, now lives in one of the affordable housing apartments and has been paying for it for seven months. She has been clean and sober for 21 months, but she will not forget her past.
"You look at life different, and you look at other people different. I see people on the streets like I was, and I could still be there. I know what they're going through; … everybody has pain and everybody has a story," Mullins said.
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